Scope and focus of research

Through the support, facilitation, synthesis and harnessing of education systems research, the RISE programme aims to:

  • Provide an analytical framework to describe and understand how education systems function.
  • Generate research that evaluates large-scale system reform efforts on the basis of its impact on student learning and equity in learning across genders and socio-economic classes. 
  • Generate explanations for why reforms succeed or fail.
  • Collect and disseminate new quantitative and qualitative data on education generally, especially on student learning, teacher performance, and school management, that contribute to a public dialogue about education system successes and failures, and provide a platform for other researchers to build on.
  • Build a community of practice of local and international researchers, teachers and other education practitioners, both within focus countries and internationally, working within the RISE programme's analytical framework, drawing on and extending the evidence base built by RISE.

For full details of the research scope and focus, please download the RISE Terms of Reference (updated in 2016 for the second call for research proposals).

Focus countries

This programme will have breadth across three types of countries: (1) countries of central importance in the medium-term to DFID programmes and policy (see DFID’s priority list here); (2) fragile and conflict-afflicted states, also on DFID’s priority list; and (3) one additional country that may not be on DFID’s priority list but that will offer strong lessons on reforms at scale to improve learning.

The seven countries prioritized for this research are:

  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Vietnam

The focus for our 2016 call for research proposals is on Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria.

Additionally, bidders are welcome to propose research programmes in any other country on the DFID priority list (see above). Bidders from countries not among these seven will be evaluated with priority given to overwhelming compelling examples of system reform(s) or transformation(s) consistent with RISE’s research goals.  



UN Photo/Abdul Fatai Adegboye (Ivory Coast)

Characteristics of eligible research

RISE is primarily interested in studying the effects of system change and how systems changes affect learning. 

There are a variety of initiatives that would be considered interesting elements of a system and worthy of research under the RISE programme. Some key attributes of systems or innovations worthy of study under RISE are:

  • The element or system characteristic should be hypothesized to have or have had a meaningful impact on learning for substantial proportions of the population.
  • Reforms or system characteristics should be at scale or have the potential for scale.
  • Reforms should also be appropriate to the context; hypothesized to have the potential for success; and have have the support of those implementing them. This could be the government, NGOs, the private sector, etc.

The following areas are illustrative of those that would be considered interesting from the RISE perspective: 

  • Teacher policies as a vehicle for improving teaching quality.
  • Student assessment systems that feed into an overall coherent strategy for accountability and improving learning. 
  • Increasing teacher and school autonomy within a performance-driven system.
  • Teaching to the level of the student.
  • Private schools and how they fit into an overall system of improving student learning and equity.
  • Teacher motivation and performance.
  • Sustainability prospects for contract teachers.
  • Technology solutions that are widespread, sustainable, and go beyond a proof of concept.



UN Photo/Marco Dormino (Mali)

Research methods

RISE seeks to answer questions on how reforms accelerate progress in student learning using a variety of disciplinary approaches. RISE is not simply looking for the immediate causes of why a reform succeeds or fails to improve learning, but also the deeper-level causes for how reforms happen and why. Answering these questions will likely require a range of methods.

A key principle of the methodological approach supported by RISE is that research methods should be driven by the research question and tailored to the context.

Primary Data Collection

RISE strongly encourages the collection and use of primary data. Primary data collection supported under RISE can include but not be limited to:

  • Outcome measurements, such as student and teacher assessments
  • Pathways metrics, such as measuring classroom activity [prominent examples include the Stallings Observation System or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)]
  • Measures of management practices within schools, e.g. the World Management Survey
  • Other metrics, including interviews with teachers, administrators, parents, education implementers, thought leaders, policymakers, students, out-of-school children, etc.